March 29, 2013




It is brutal out there.  Even the hellterror was willing to scamper back to the house early, although it’s always difficult to tell with the hellterror, since she knows when I put her back in her crate she gets a handful of FOOOOOOOOD which salves the wounded (hyperactive) spirit.  I went to the Maundy Thursday [Anglican] Mass at the monks tonight** and I took my sitting-still-in-the-cold blanket because I went early, as usual, for a little silent contemplation before the service began.  I was expecting there to be a proper congregation today but I wasn’t expecting the jugglers and the dancing elephant.***  The lights were already on when I arrived and monks in an assortment of party frocks were rushing around setting up.  I wrapped myself in my blanket and prepared to practise focussing despite distractions—it takes a lot of concentration to ignore a dancing elephant—but even by the time the service started I was thinking, I don’t believe the heat is on at all.  I know they don’t have a lot of money, maybe they turn their central heating off on the Ides of March and if that means frost on the soup and hypothermia in the congregation, so be it.  During the standing-up bits I was hoping we could sit down again—and I could rewrap my blanket—before my knees started audibly knocking together. †

It also went on rather a while.  This would have been fine—and Easter is the biggest event in the Christian year, bigger than Christmas, so you’re expecting services to be a little extra elaborate††—if it weren’t for the creeping frostbite.  I should have brought a bigger blanket.  I should have brought a duvet.  I should have brought a self-heating dog.

And then at the end the monks get various things up on poles and platters and march firmly down the aisle and out of the chapel—chanting all the while—and we get up and follow them.  Good thing someone has been here before and knows the drill.  It’s not like the monks’ web site has any useful information like what happens during service.

So we all troop out of the church and into the DARK and the FREEEEEEEZING COLD and I wrap my blanket around my shoulders,  praying for a miraculous sirocco, and we file into a tiny little chapel away from the main block of the abbey.  I don’t think the monks’ abbey is all that old, but this hidey-hole looks like something the desert fathers might have used (speaking of siroccos).  Perhaps it is, and was brought, stone by stone, from Egypt in Early Gleep A.D.   The monks set up the bits of whatever they’d brought and then left us there.  Not having realised there was going to be Silent Contemplation built into this service, I’d been attempting to be pious for about two hours at that point and when various other cravens starting creeping out . . . I crept out too.  And went home to feed hellcritters and reassure my husband I hadn’t taken holy orders.   And to warm up.

And this is only the beginning.  I’ll go back for service tomorrow—I’m pretty freaked out about Good/Black Friday:  I know he rose and everything, but they still killed him and he still died—and then Saturday night there’s a vigil.  I might sign on for the vigil if I had the faintest clue what it entailed. . . . ††

* * *

* And apparently this bloody weather is going to last another three weeks.  Mid April and HARD FROST every night?!?!?  Even in Maine by mid-April you can expect some nights to stay above freezing.  I finally potted up my sweet peas today, poor things, they’ve been living on the edge the last ten days or so—or off the edge, when the cardboard box they arrived in disintegrated at an inopportune moment and I had sweet pea seedlings all over the floor.^ Unlabelled sweet pea seedlings:  the plastic cell-packs are labelled, not the plant plugs, which all look alike.  Arrrrrgh.  I originally assumed that this weather would go away within a day or two, so I took the lid off but left the seedlings, in their teetery plastic trays, in the nice stable flat-bottomed box.  I hadn’t realised how much run off there had been from watering them till the cardboard bottom fell out.  ARRRRRRGH.  Anyway it’s really been too cold to put greenhouse-raised tender seedlings outdoors even during the day and the sweet peas have spent a good deal of time in the kitchen sink, to no one’s satisfaction.  Or propped up against the kitchen door, which is at least glass—the sink doesn’t get a lot of sunlight—with a towel against boreal drafts and my wellies holding the teetery plastic packaging upright to further general dissatisfaction.^^  I am grateful that I decided to cut my losses early—the only things I can reliably get through the winter indoors are geraniums, with an honourable mention for begonias^^^—so I left most things where they were,# jammed my windowsills, and had a relatively cope-with-able commuting indoor/outdoor jungle this year.  It’s about to become not cope-with-able however, since it now includes a large tray full of dazed sweet pea seedlings## . . . and another box of tender plants arrived today.

I’m trying to tell myself that nurseries need the space they’re freeing up by sending you your plants at the scheduled time, however undesirable that schedule has become.  What I’m really thinking is you morons.  Most of us don’t have greenhouses## and we don’t want to see this stuff till we can start hardening it off to live outdoors. 

^ Fortunately the hellterror was in her crate.

^^ Including putting them back in the sink any time the hellterror is loose.

^^^And a dishonourable mention to so-called hardy fuchsias.  I lose ’em every dratblasted winter+ so this winter, ha ha ha ha ha, I decided to bring a couple of ’em indoors.  They’re doing great.  Hey.  Guys.  You’re supposed to be hardy.  You’re supposed to live outdoors over the winter.  That’s live. 

+ Don’t talk to me about drainage or I will become violent

# And by some bizarre miracle a few snapdragons are still hanging on.  I doubt they’ll survive another three weeks of this however SIIIIIIIGH.

## Which spent SEVERAL HOURS OUTDOORS today during a BREAK IN THE CLOUDS THAT WAS ALMOST SUNLIGHT.  On the shelf under the kitchen window—speaking of life on the edge—which should be almost warm, with the Aga throwing heat at the glass from the other side.

### Greenhouses you could actually grow stuff in, anyway.  Mine gets almost no sunlight.  It’s a sort of glass-paned tool shed.  Makes you wonder what was on my predecessor’s mind when she sited it there.

** I might add that the day did not get off to a good start when I was woken up three times by parcel-delivery people demanding signatures for parcels that did not need signing for.^  Each time this happened I reset my alarm because I seriously need some sleep, with the result that I didn’t get up till nearly . . . um . . . late.  I was wakened a fourth time by the hellterror taking noisy exception to some other dog barking in the neighbourhood.  Moan.

^ Including first-pass page proofs for SHADOWS.  Ugggggggh.  That parcel is even marked DOES NOT NEED SIGNATURE.  We have been here before . . .

*** Or the Spanish Inquisition, but then nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition.

† At least I didn’t—or anyway I think I didn’t—mess up taking communion tonight.  Arrrrgh.  It’s all very well as Aloysius says that Anglicanism is big and comprehensive enough^ that there’s a niche somewhere for almost everyone, but this also means that the way service is run may differ spectacularly from one church to the next—and I don’t know what the frell I’m doing anyway.  So you get the run-down in a brisk, no-nonsense, nothing-to-be-afraid-of way from some long-time Anglican friend and then you go to the monks and yaaaaaaah.^^

^ Except about women bishops

^^ I was talking to Gemma about this.  Gemma is Catholic.  She says that one of the things she likes about Catholicism is that Mass is said the same everywhere.  You don’t have to worry about it.  You can pitch up in England or France or Outer Mongolia, and if it’s Catholic Mass, you’ll know where you are and what’s going on.

†† Possibly including jugglers and dancing elephants

††† It’s too late to ask the monks:  they’re being silent till Easter, and Aloysius doesn’t know.


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